Astronomy Day is a grass roots movement to share the joy of astronomy with the general population - "Bringing Astronomy to the People." On Astronomy Day, thousands of people who have never looked through a telescope will have an opportunity to see first hand what has so many amateur and professional astronomers all excited. Astronomy clubs, science museums, observatories, universities, planetariums, laboratories, libraries, and nature centers host special events and activities to acquaint their population with local astronomical resources and facilities. It is an astronomical PR event that helps highlight ways the general public can get involved with astronomy - or at least get some of their questions about astronomy answered. Astronomy Week is the same concept as Astronomy Day except seven times longer.
Astronomy Day occurs sometime between mid April and mid May on a Saturday near or before the 1st quarter Moon. Astronomy Week starts the Monday preceding Astronomy Day and ends the following Sunday. Astronomy Week was created to give sponsoring organizations a longer period of time to host special events. Some local Astronomy Week celebrations have actually been longer than just one week.
|Year||Astronomy Week||Astronomy Day|
|2003||April 27 - May 3||May 3|
|2004||April 18 - 24||April 24|
|2005||April 18 - 24||April 16|
|2006||April 30 - May 7||May 3|
|2007||April 16 - 22||April 21|
|2008||May 5 - 11||>May 10|
|2009||April 29 - May 3||May 2|
|2010||April 19 - 25||April 24|
|2011||May 2 - 8||May 7|
|2012||April 14 - 20||April 28|
|2013||April 15 - 21||April 20|
|2014||May 5 - 11||May 10|
Astronomy Day events take place at hundreds of sites across the United States. Internationally England, Canada, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, the Philippines, Argentina, Malaysia, New Guinea plus many other countries have hosted Astronomy Day activities. Each location plans and executes events that work best for their local area.
Activities have included talks by astronauts, astronomers and NASA personnel, Moon rocks, a Moon gravity simulator, games, prizes, astronomical food, scale models of the solar system, space hardware, space ballets and poetry and, of course, actual outdoor observing (daytime and nighttime) with a telescope. Daytime observations include SAFE ways to observe the Sun. Many organizations host elaborate exhibits at shopping malls, museums, nature centers, libraries, etc. Teachers have used Astronomy Day to promote the study of astronomy with their classes.
Astronomy Day was born in California in 1973. Doug Berger, then president of the Astronomical Association of Northern California, decided that rather than try to entice people to travel long distances to visit observatory open houses, they would set up telescopes closer to where the people were - busy locations - urban locations like street corners, shopping malls, parks, etc.
His strategy paid off. Not only did Astronomy Day go over with a bang, not only did the public find out about the astronomy club, they found out about future observatory open houses. Since the public got a chance to look through a portable telescope, they were hooked. Then wanted to see what went on at the bigger telescopes, so they turned out in droves at the next observatory open house.
© 2007 Ronald A. Leeseberg. This feature was updated ©2012 Dawn Jenkins